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Choices produces videos featuring top experts—professors, policymakers, journalists, activists, and artists—answering questions that complement the readings and lessons.

Supplemental Materials

Supplemental Materials includes graphic organizers, a PowerPoint of political cartoons, online lessons to accompany the printed unit, links to resources on other sites, and a list of recommended print resources.

U.S. Role in the World

The U.S. Role in a Changing World

Seventh edition. June 2015.


From the first days of the republic, U.S. citizens have debated how to balance their priorities at home with their involvement in international affairs. Today, the United States continues to wrestle with the task of balancing domestic needs and international concerns. An array of economic, political, cultural, and social problems exist both at home and abroad. For example, how should the United States address climate change? Terrorism? Humanitarian crises? Poverty and inequality? Consensus about how to address these problems and others is hard to achieve. Nevertheless, a healthy democracy requires debate and discussion about the values and policies that shape the United States' place in the world.

The U.S. Role in a Changing World helps students reflect on global changes, assess national priorities, and decide for themselves the role the United States should play in the world today.


Readings explore the forces that shape the U.S. role in the world. Part I reviews three critical turning points in the history of U.S. foreign policy: the Spanish-American War, World War I, and the post-World War II period. Part II examines several pressing issues facing the United States and the world today: the economy, human health and the environment, international relations, and culture and values. Part III explores security concerns in the United States and considers how the issues presented in Part II influence policy decisions about security. It addresses wars and interventions in the 1990s (the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, and Yugoslavia), more recent conflicts (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria), and three critical security issues facing the United States today (terrorism, nuclear weapons, and cybersecurity).

The Choices Role Play

This activity is a simulation in which students examine four options for U.S. policy. Each option has a different perspective on the U.S. role in the world. By exploring this spectrum of alternatives, students gain a deeper understanding of the values and beliefs underlying U.S. foreign policy and are prepared to develop their own policy recommendations.


International Relations Terminology
By organizing key terms into four broad conceptual categories, students gain familiarity with issues and terms that are useful for learning about and discussing international relations.

Rethinking International Relations
Analyzing different perspectives on international relations, students begin to identify the issues, values, and assumptions integral to the debate about international affairs. Sources address a range of issues, including globalization, climate change, economic justice, the Arab Spring, government surveillance, and the use of drones.

Examining Global Opinion
This lesson presents students with sets of data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project. Questions enable students to read, interpret, and think critically about the data. The data addresses global opinion on international trade, the use of military force, terrorism, foreign perceptions of the United States, and more.

Interpreting Political Cartoons
Students explore a broad spectrum of opinions on U.S. foreign policy by interpreting political cartoons from around the world.

The Options Role Play
Working cooperatively, students explore four different options for U.S. foreign policy in a role-play activity.

Expressing Your Views
Students articulate their own opinions on U.S. foreign policy based on personally held values and historical understanding.